Ospreys 26 Cardiff Blues 15: Three talking points
Ospreys 26 Cardiff Blues 15: Three talking points as the home side move to the top of Pro12
Ospreys soar to six-cess
To the casual observer, six wins from six matches is as good as it gets, but the Ospreys are yet to achieve perfection, something they are keen to point out. Head coach Steve Tandy is known for downplaying his team’s achievements and he will always find plenty for his players to improve on. The fact he was disappointed after a derby win against their South Wales rivals, calling on his players to be ruthless despite their 100 per cent record so far in the PRO12 speaks volumes. The scoreboard didn’t reflect just how dominant the Ospreys were in this game. It could be argued they’ve had a fairly easy ride in many of those games and, evidently, there is still more to come, but, heading into the European Rugby Champions Cup this weekend, they can still be quietly delighted to be the only remaining unbeaten professional club in Europe. It was another solid shift from the Biggar and Webb show: Biggar landing 16 points while Webb scored his fifth try and collected another man of the match award. There were also notably impressive performances from loosehead prop Nicky Smith, number 8 Dan Baker and Canadian winger Jeff Hassler.
Wales jerseys up for grabs
Sitting in the stands alongside assistants Robin McBryde and Neil Jenkins, Gatland would have been delighted with Dan Baker’s performance as his strong early running caused the Blues plenty of problems. Number 8 has been a position and jersey almost exclusively belonging to Taulupe Faletau in recent times, but Baker is developing into a player who could do a job for Wales given the chance and has received praise from numerous former players, including former Scarlets and Wales number 8 Scott Quinnell. Despite the poor start to the season for his club Newport Gwent Dragons, Faletau is expected to start the autumn international as first-choice for Wales, but could find his position under threat for next year’s Six Nations. After switching to the Blues from the Ospreys, Wales tighthead Adam Jones is not yet ready to reclaim his Wales jersey. He may have worked hard on his fitness, but has yet to really hit the sort of form that will be needed in four bruising contests against southern hemisphere teams with the Blues struggling so far this season. Only injury should prevent him making the squad, but he will likely find himself behind Scarlets tighthead Samson Lee. Playing understudy is not something the veteran is too used to, but he is not the form tighthead prop Wales have at their disposal right now and he accepts that he has to fight for his place. The Blues may boast the 2009 Lions front row, but none are assured of being named to start the first Test against Australia.
Blues seeing green in Swansea
All the pre-season talk was about how the Blues were going to be the number one region in Wales after a raft of new signings, including the capture of Adam Jones from the Ospreys, as well as a new director of rugby in Mark Hammett. Six matches in and the Blues have won one and drawn one, sitting 10th in the league, even below the Dragons. How they must be green with envy to see a young Ospreys squad beating everyone in their path when few gave them much hope of finishing in the top four. It’s not that the Blues don’t have weapons, they have plenty of them in their forwards and backs, including Wales captain and flanker Sam Warburton and winger Alex Cuthbert, while outside-half Rhys Patchell is an exciting runner and has one of the biggest boots in rugby. It’s just they have consistently failed to produce 80-minute performances, or anywhere close enough to scrape wins. There were spells against Glasgow Warriors, Leinster, Connacht and even the last couple of minutes against the Ospreys where the Blues look like a side that can cause teams some serious damage, but it is all too fleeting as it was at the Liberty Stadium. There is no consistency in the backline selection and the forwards are being outmuscled – not many would have though Nicky Smith, Scott Baldwin and Dmitri Arhip would dominate Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees and Adam Jones at the set-pieces. Unlike like the injury-ravaged Dragons, the Blues have few excuses when they boast a front row with 275 caps and a pack with close to 400. Their next outing sees them return home to face Grenoble in the European Rugby Challenge Cup where the Blues will wear green shirts. Maybe their special European kit will bring them the spark they’ve so far been missing because, all the magic in Welsh rugby is happening along the M4…again.